May 4, 2022
A freak accident nearly killed 52-year-old Robert Pratt last September.
“I was going hunting and was getting ready to load my ATV when my dog took off running,” the Cheyenne resident said. “I went after her.”
Robert has years of experience riding ATVs. But when the one-year-old Husky darted in front of him, Robert swerved to avoid hitting her. During the swerve the ATV’s throttle cable broke, and Robert lost control of the machine. “I hit the back of my truck going about 40 miles an hour,” he said.
Robert was thrown from the ATV and landed on his left side. The crash resulted in a broken clavicle, several crushed ribs, a punctured lung and injuries to Robert’s left leg and foot. Worst of all was that Robert had hit his head—hard—causing bleeding inside his brain. “The hematoma made my left ear swell up to the size of a person’s foot,” Robert said.
Robert was taken by ambulance to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center (CRMC).
In critical condition, Robert was quickly admitted to CRMC’s intensive care unit (ICU).
Robert’s memory of those first few weeks in the hospital is hazy.
“I remember being in the ambulance and not much after that,” he said.
Robert’s fiancée and family members have helped fill in some of the gaps.
Robert spent about two months in the ICU before he regained consciousness.
“When I finally woke up, my fiancée said they weren’t sure at first if I was going to make it,” he said. “My family told me that I died twice in the ICU. Thankfully, they were able to get me back.”
One thing Robert does recall is how well the ICU nurses cared for him. He remembers one nurse in particular: “Virginia was really there for me. She kept trying to lift my spirits,” he said. “She convinced me to be strong and to keep going.”
Despite the nurturing and care, Robert said he was in a “pretty dark” place.
“I couldn’t raise my left arm, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t really do anything,” he said.
While Robert’s condition slowly improved during the weeks he spent in the ICU and on the sixth floor, his frustration continued. “I wasn’t myself. I wasn’t where I wanted to be,” he said.
Acute rehabilitation sparks hope
Robert started rehabilitation therapy while he was on the sixth floor. After nearly two weeks there, he was moved to CRMC’s Acute Rehabilitation Unit (ARU), where he would undergo more intensive physical and occupational therapy, three times a day.
“They knew I was depressed when I got to rehab.,” Robert said. “Right away they showed me that they cared and that they could help.”
Robert said the therapy was “hard,” but he was happy about that. “They helped me with sitting, standing, my balance, stairs and my equilibrium,” he said. “They knew I was passionate about hunting and wanted to get back to doing that again.”
One therapist assistant was especially motivating.
“Leo hunts and fishes, so he understood,” Robert said. “If I was working on stairs, he would tell me I could do one more step. He encouraged me to keep going, to do a little bit more.”
Robert was warned that he might need several weeks of inpatient therapy before he could be discharged, but he made so much progress that he was allowed to go home after just two weeks.
“I can’t thank them enough for all that they did for me,” Robert said. “They were awesome. When I left, I was on top of the world.”
Robert continued to have therapy at home for another month and then followed that up with outpatient therapy at CRMC.
Be determined, work hard and be thankful
Robert wants to thank his family for their encouragement and support. He is also grateful for the treatment he received at CRMC. “I wouldn’t be here without all the people there who helped me,” he said.
Robert said that he would tell anyone in a similar situation that they are going to have hard days and down times. “Be determined, work hard and be thankful,” he said. “And be nice to your therapists,” he added, laughing.
In his truck, Robert has a magnet that says, “never, never, never give up.” That is now his motto.
“You just never know what is going to happen—what life might bring,” he said.
Today, Robert is back at work full-time. He also has a home gym where he exercises an hour or more several times a week. And he is determined to go hunting this fall. “I’m going back to the woods with my brother-in-law and my sons,” he said. “This year I’m going to get that elk.”